Pregnant Marathoners Don’t Care If You Think They Shouldn’t Be Running

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(Photo: Running Pregnant)

The New York Times has an incredible story up this morning, profiling elite marathoners running through – and after – their pregnancies. Depending on your own beliefs about exercise and pregnancy you’re probably going to fall into two camps: The ‘holy shit this is amazing and inspirational and I should have totally run that 5K when I was knocked up!’ camp or the ‘WTF are they thinking and boy, that kinda looks weird and also painful?!?!’ camp. Take your pick.

Personally, I find these women to be awe-inspiring and relatable, even if I can barely huff out a two mile run while NOT pregnant. According to the Times the balance between having a kid and pursuing a running career is basically nonexistent (sound familiar?) and so they find their own way to do both at the same time.

Elite runners often try to squeeze in a pregnancy and recovery in the 16-month window between world track championships in years with no Summer Olympics. This is one such year, and pregnancies abound.

Maternity leave in professional running is rare. A pregnancy is still frequently treated as if it were an injury, and women can experience a pay cut or not be paid at all if they do not compete for six months. During that period, they often remain bound to sponsors in exclusive contracts that can last upward of six years. Because the athletes are independent contractors, they are not covered by laws that protect employed women in pregnancy.

Marathoners like Paula Radcliffe and Kara Goucher trained through their pregnancies, and returned to racing as soon as their babies popped out. Radcliffe, for example, won the New York City Marathon in 2007 just nine months after giving birth to her daughter. At the time, people gave her a ton of s**t for exercising so intensely while pregnant. Now, thanks to her, the practice is more common-place among pregnant runners. Some, like Olympian Alysia Montaño, even compete while pregnant. Her decision to run an 800-meter race while 8 months pregnant got a lot of people worked up with the rage-ies, because of course. She said of her decision:

“I wanted to help clear up the stigma around women exercising during pregnancy, which baffled me. People sometimes act like being pregnant is a nine-month death sentence, like you should lie in bed all day. I wanted to be an example for women starting a family while continuing a career, whatever that might be. I was still surprised by how many people paid attention.”


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